Make certain that the qualifications are more than a two-week, part-time, study-at-home course. These courses seem to be popular these days, but someone who has just taken one obviously isn't as serious and professional as a member of the listed organizations above. Ask about their background in the building trades, also. It is critical that your home inspector not only takes his job very seriously, but that he has extensive experience in building. No matter how book smart your inspector is, nothing compares to long-term, direct experience in the field.
2. Make Sure You Receive a Detailed, Written Home Inspection Report
A favorite trick of amateur home inspectors is to simply give you a hand written checklist with generic responses about each system of your home. This is unacceptable and is a clear signal that your home inspector is not a serious professional. Be certain the report contains narrative that is specific to your home. Ask to see samples of the inspector's previous reports to ascertain that your written home inspection report is professionally done and very specific to the individual home.
The report must contain three basic areas. The first should be an overview. This is a detailed description of the house explaining all the major systems, areas and components, as well as their condition. Secondly, a list of maintenance items detailing things needing normal attention. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are major repair items. These are things like the roof, heating system, plumbing or anything that could cost a significant amount of money to fix or replace. A competent home inspector should be able to provide you an estimated repair amount. This number can then be used for negotiation with the home seller to have the items fixed or the price lowered on the property.
3. Last But Not Least, Personality
Do you get along with and like your home inspector? This is critical because the inspector can often go to bat for you if there are disputed items on the report. If the inspector is too gruff or not friendly with you, it is unlikely that others will be swayed by his opinion. Having good repose with your inspector can make the entire process easier and even enjoyable as you learn about your new home.
Illustration by Kena Ravel